Forum Index > Trip Reports > South Fork Hoh River Trail and Samís River Trail - Old Growth Gems
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lcometto
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PostTue Oct 22, 2019 5:42 am 
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There are two short hikes in the rainforests of Olympic National Park that rival the beauty of the major valley treks but are often overlooked and underappreciated: the Queetís ďSamís River Loop TrailĒ and the Hohís ďSouth Fork Hoh River Trail.Ē I decided to photograph the unique characteristics of these two hikes as part of a guide to all of the rainforest hikes in Olympic National Park: https://www.lucascometto.com/cascadia-olympic-peninsula

South Fork Hoh River Trail
The south fork of the Hoh River is formed by the Hubert Glacier on the south flank of Mount Olympus, and flows west into the main stem of the Hoh River near the Olympic National Park Boundary. While the Hoh River Trail is among the Park's most popular hiking and backpacking corridors, the nearby South Fork Hoh River Trail sees a fraction of the traffic and offers genuine solitude in a pristine old-growth rainforest. This trail is truly a hidden gem.

South Fork Hoh River Trail, Washington
South Fork Hoh River Trail, Washington
South Fork Hoh River Trail, Washington
South Fork Hoh River Trail, Washington

Both the South Fork Hoh campground and trailhead are approached at the end of a series of logging roads where the transitions between private land and protected land remind travelers of the acute need to protect these forests. The trail begins by dropping down into newer forest before penetrating the Olympic National Park boundary. Here the environment takes on a more primitive and dense feel, with ancient-looking Bigleaf Maple trees adorned by moss sprinkled throughout.

South Fork Hoh River Trail, Washington
South Fork Hoh River Trail, Washington
Olympic National Park, Washington Portfolio: <a href="http://www.lucascometto.com" target="_blank">www.lucascometto.com</a>
Olympic National Park, Washington Portfolio: www.lucascometto.com

The path is also punctuated by grove after grove of gigantic Sitka Spruces, often clustered in bunches. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of trees displaying yellow and orange autumn colors on the path. Check out the huge sitka spruce (picture #1) surrounded by bright yellow leaves. The whole trail feels wild and even the campsites along the path (Big Flat and Stick-in-Eye) are primitive and overgrown. As primitive rest stops, these camps reinforce the experience of hiking deep into the South Fork Hoh wilderness.

South Fork Hoh River Trail, Washington
South Fork Hoh River Trail, Washington
South Fork Hoh River Trail, Washington
South Fork Hoh River Trail, Washington

Samís River Loop Trail 
Though lacking the giant trees found across the river in the nearby Queets River Trail, the Samís River Loop Trail has a unique character all its own. This short 2.5-mile walk circumambulates the Queets Campground and ranger station, and is filled with moss-laden trees. This time of year, there are many beautiful deciduous trees displaying wonderful fall colors of mainly yellow and red.

Sam's River Loop Trail
Sam's River Loop Trail

Throughout the hike, both exemplary Bigleaf Maples and Western Hemlocks enclose the trail with drapes flora hanging from every branch. Unlike many of the major river valley hikes elsewhere in the National Park, this hike has a spacious, open feel to it, crossing beautiful fields of lush grass. There are at least two sections where the path disappears and hikers must rely on signs across the grassy wetlands to point them to find the trailís continuation.

Sam's River Loop Trail
Sam's River Loop Trail

Both the Samís River Loop Trail and the South Fork Hoh are both incredible trails that are short day hike alternatives to the busy Hoh and Quinault rainforest areas. Their solitude provides an awesome rainforest experience without the need to backpack.

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Double_E
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PostTue Oct 22, 2019 10:25 am 
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Love the SF Hoh... I hiked part way up it once a few years ago but then this past September I hiked all the way to the end, checked it off the list finally. Meant to write a TR, but haven't gotten around to it, but I'll add some info to this one.

Was surprised how good shape it was in; not a single log on the trail for the full 4.3 miles or whatever it was.   up.gif   Some slightly brushy areas, but NBD overall. There's a really cool campsite about 3.4 miles in; note to self to come back and camp there some time.  BTW, despite being Labor Day weekend I didn't see a single person on the entire hike.

Oh and on the drive to it, do not take the left turn that says Rainforest Road; it doesn't go there.  Normally I'm pretty good at map reading and navigation but apparently not this time, partially cause it was after dark (I car camped at the SF campground the night before the hike.)

So I took the left turn and then after a little while it there was a sign that said "Private property" and there were I think three houses, one on the right and two on the left.
But it wasn't super clear to me whether the sign was for the driveway for the house on the right or for the whole area.  So I kept slowly driving, thinking the road kept going.  After driving about 30 yards I heard someone yell "HEY!!" super loud and aggro like.. immediately after that someone else laughed and said something to the effect of "he's OK, we're just partying". It was a weekend night after all.

But I was like "Ohh-kaay I guess I'm not supposed to be here, LOL" and then turned around, drove back to the main road and eventually found the SF campground.
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lcometto
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PostTue Oct 22, 2019 1:49 pm 
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Double_E, that's a hilarious mixup. I was wondering what was down "Rainforest Road." In fact, if I hadn't been so slow on the South Fork Hoh, I would've gone to check it out myself!

Glad you've were able to experience the beauty of the trail in the end though. And you're right about the solitude; it's one of the best parts (along with the giant spruces, of course).

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Hesman
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PostTue Oct 22, 2019 4:17 pm 
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I too hiked the SF Hoh this year and enjoyed the trail immensely. I was impressed with how well maintained it was and it seemed to me that it had received quite a bit of maintenance in the last year or two.

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You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. - Abraham Lincoln
Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened. - Dr. Seuss
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lcometto
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PostTue Oct 22, 2019 6:15 pm 
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Hesman, I was surprised by the maintenance as well. Particularity because of how seldom the trail is traveled.

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RodF
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PostTue Oct 22, 2019 7:53 pm 
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Thanks for sharing these great reports and photos!

To give credit where it is due: "Three of us: Dave Skinner, Martin Knowles and I [WTA crew leader 'Becca Wanagel], got this trail cleared, brushed and raked though to the end. Dave went out a day and a half before we got there, and then we all worked together for two more long days to finish it up.  The South Fork Hoh is one of those lesser-known gems." link

Thank you 'Becca and Dave (both previous Most Inspirational Friend of Olympic NP awardees) and Martin (who is also amazing!)  up.gif

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"of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt" - John Muir
"the wild is not the opposite of cultivated.  It is the opposite of the captivatedĒ - Vandana Shiva
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Hesman
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PostTue Oct 22, 2019 8:16 pm 
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2018, I knew it had to of been a recent clearing of the trail, since not much of the cleared brush had had a chance to grow back much.

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You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. - Abraham Lincoln
Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened. - Dr. Seuss
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Sky Hiker
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PostWed Oct 23, 2019 4:16 am 
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Did you get any fishing in?
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lcometto
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PostWed Oct 23, 2019 5:44 am 
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Not me but I wish!

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